Dear Arts & Letters Community:
In the second week of March each year, the National Humanities Alliance organizes meetings on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC to advocate for support of humanities-based institutions such as libraries, museums, and federal agencies such as National Endowment for the Humanities and National Archives. On March 9, we also celebrate National Humanities Day here at Cal State LA with zoom programming all day, including information sessions, scholarly presentations, screenings, and drop-in classes.
But what are “The Humanities?” We can understand the Humanities to mean the study of what it means to be human. Or, the study of human expression and meaning-making – its culture, arts, and communication. The study and practice of the humanities are thus at the heart of civil society. The humanities are especially critical when a society finds itself in difficult times, like now. The humanities and the College of Arts & Letters writ large is committed to truth, knowledge, ethics, and real discourse—not winning and losing, but rather understanding—understanding what it means to be human and to be civic participants in a just society.
One of the College’s signature public humanities events occurs the second week of March as well: Eagle-Con. Eagle-Con has a threefold mission that is educational, practical, and fun. It educates participants about the history, impact, and continued necessity of the contributions of women, BIPOC, the LGBTQIA-identified, the differently-abled, and the variously-aged to the science fiction and fantasy genres and explores diverse identity representations and expressions within these genres; provides professionalization opportunities for students to interact with professionals in these fields; and celebrates science fiction and fantasy through entertaining events involving art, fashion, storytelling, games, screenings, and special presentations. Yes, this is the humanities.
Together with the arts and associated social sciences, “The Humanities” build culture and critically examine culture. Every department in the College of Arts & Letters engages with the humanities:
- Art history in the Department of Art
- Communication studies
- Literature and language in the Department of English
- American studies and women’s gender and sexuality studies in the Department of Liberal Studies
- Languages and literatures other than English in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures
- Music history from the pre-classical to the contemporary in the Department of Music
- Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy
- Theatre history in the Department of Theatre and Dance
- And…media studies and television and film history in the Department of Television Film and Media Studies
Top photo: Philosophy Professor Michael Shim encouraging students to think about questions they may have never thought to ask at National Humanities Day 2019.